How ADPRI investigated the impact of student loans on the world of work

November 14, 2023 | read time icon 3 min

Share this

We covered this research in the December edition of Today at Work, along with research about optimal HR staffing, workplace stress, and more.

For nearly a decade, ADPRI has been collecting granular data on individual workers from a stratified random sample of people worldwide. In surveys of more than 500,000 workers in 29 countries, respondents have shared their feelings about their jobs, their colleagues, their organizations, their pay, their leaders, and many other workplace issues.

Our study reaches knowledge and shift workers at all levels of income and managerial responsibility across dozens of sectors.

In December 2021, we began collecting responses from 2,500 workers in the U.S. every month. This survey contains more than 50 items, statements that workers are asked to respond to on a five-point scale.

Knowing that interest on student loan debt would begin accruing again in September, with payments coming due in October, we wanted to investigate what impact this might have on the world of work. To do so, we added six new items to our monthly pulse survey.

We began by asking respondents to answer the following three questions, to better understand their current situation regarding student loan debt:

After the nearly four year pause of student loan payments, borrowers will begin accruing interest on September 1st, 2023, with first payments coming due in October. How much will this impact you financially?

  • I have no student loans
  • No one in my household has student loans that will impact my finances
  • Will not impact me
  • Will impact me minimally
  • Will impact me moderately
  • Will impact me significantly

How many people in your household are expected to make student loan payments when payments resume in October?

  • 0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5+

How much student loan debt does your household currently carry?

  • None ($0)
  • Less than $10,000
  • $10,000-$25,000
  • $25,000-$50,000
  • $50,000-$100,000
  • $100,000-$150,000
  • $150,000-$200,000
  • $200,000-$250,000
  • More than $250,000

The following three items were then provided on a 5-point Likert agreement scale (from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”):

Restarting my student loan payments is going to significantly change my spending.

I expect to be paying off my student loans for the rest of my life.

My student loan debt feels like a heavy burden I carry with me all the time.


Equipped with data from these 6 new items, we conducted crosstabulation analyses comparing results from these items with other variables measured on our survey (e.g., general demographics, feelings of pay equity, work productivity, intent to leave one’s organization, etc.). We also computed likelihood ratios to determine the magnitude of impact across groups.

Sample size and makeup

Our monthly survey collects responses from a cross section of working adults in the United States. Since December 2021, we’ve collected more than 57,000 responses.